DALLAS, TX—Debbie Shaw keeps a scrapbook that is unlike most others you will see. The memory book details every moment since a dark night in 1986, when the single mother was raped in her own home. "He said shut up or I will kill you."
Numerous letters to parole officials are part of the scrapbook. Shaw says she has pleaded with the board to keep her attacker locked away. "I don't do it for myself. I think of the people he could victimize."
The man, Johnny Ray Patton, who Shaw believes raped her is in prison, but for burglary not a sex crime. He was identified through DNA, years after it was too late to prosecute. If Patton is released next year he would not be required to register as a sex offender. "Without the public knowing about it, it is really scary. I fear for other women," says Shaw.
It is an increasing problem and a growing concern for many. Dozens of sex offenders, identified by DNA in a lab long after the statute of limitations has expired are being allowed to live under the radar without neighbors, employers or the public knowing. Officials say their hands are tied.
A groundbreaking new Texas law puts a permanent mark on a rape suspect's record that can be used if there is another crime, but it is for law enforcement eyes only. The public will never know about it or see it.
It was the best lawmakers could do, according to a state representative who helped craft the bill. "I wish it did have the sex offender registration component to it, but you must have a conviction to do that", says Dallas Democrat, Allen Vaught.
Vaught says he wanted to give the law more teeth, but was told it would not pass constitutional muster if it required those without a conviction to register as sexual offenders. "This was the next best thing. They know they are being watched. This will be a deterrent to future bad conduct."
The law will get its first test soon. Officials say a suspected rapist who was identified using DNA got into trouble again. A judge or jury will now be allowed to look at the previous rape allegation in sentencing.